Robe, SA: Destination Guide

Robe 960x 350

Robe enjoys pristine swimming beaches a stone’s throw from the spectacular limestone cliffs that give the Limestone Coast its name.

Read on to discover the best things to see and do in Robe or find and book accommodation in Robe today.

About Robe

Governor Frederick Holt Robe sailed into Guichen Bay aboard the Lapwing in 1846, looking for a place to establish a new port town. The site was chosen and surveyed in the same year by Thomas Burr. Guichen Bay was named after Admiral De Guichen by French explorer Nicholas Baudin half a century earlier as he navigated the southern coast of Australia.

The mid-19th century saw Robe grow considerably as immigrants landed from Scotland and Ireland, many of them staying on as local fishermen. In those days, Robe was still a relatively remote outpost of Adelaide and became largely self-sufficient, a quality that seems to have seeped through the years and is still discernible today.

In 1857, Queen Victoria imposed a draconian tax of £10 on Chinese immigrant workers landing in her ports but it didn’t account for their ingenuity. That year alone, 20,000 Chinese miners landed at Robe just over the border, saving the £10 (which was more than their voyage cost) and walking the rest of the way to the goldfields around Ballarat.

Now, the coast south of Robe features a regular series of wells dug by these miners on their way to the goldfields, leaving a string of accidental monuments to their pilgrimage. The slew of sailing ships that ended up empty in Robe’s port after disgorging their human cargo helped to spawn a secondary trade sending horses and sheep products to Britain’s troops in India. When the goldfields began to peter out, so did the import of miners from China and elsewhere. This, in turn, meant that there were less ships coming into Robe and the town’s economy began to embrace commercial fishing.

Things to do in Robe

Four-wheel drivers know Robe well as the northern end of an expanse of beach tracks that carve and wind through the sand dunes extending south towards Beachport and beyond. Families are familiar with the caravan parks in the town they revisit every year, the ice-cream shop, the myriad cafes and shops, as well as the lakes which are popular with fishers, water skiers and every form of watercraft all summer long.

These days it isn’t so much commercial fishing as local sport fishers, cray divers and the like who hit the waves around Robe. The water here is relatively wild and there are still plenty of things biting in the water, whether your penchant is fresh or salt. Many of the buildings date back to the 1850s, and if you turn your head a little and the light is right, you can almost see a bullock or two cantering down the main street towards the docks. More likely, though, you’ll see lots of families crossing the street while heading towards Town Beach or driving down to Long Beach, which is one of the few beaches you can drive on in Australia.

Attractions in Robe

Little Dip Conservation Park

If beach driving is really your thing, however, head just south of town to Little Dip Conservation Park. Two-wheel drive tracks lead into all of the camp grounds in the park, and from there a series of 4WD tracks curl through the dunes down to the beach, and along a few of the beaches between limestone points jutting out into the Southern Ocean. The fishing is fantastic out here, too. The main catch off the coast is salmon, mulloway, rays, flathead, snapper and King George whiting. Or you can rock fish for salmon, mullet, snapper and sweep. The abalone is reputed to be plentiful on the limestone shelves just past the breakers.

Getting to Robe

Located on SA's eastern coast, Robe is about 330km from Adelaide.

By car

Robe is a three hour and 45 minute drive from Adelaide via the Princes Highway.

When to visit Robe

Cool coastal breezes make a visit to Robe pleasant any time of the year. June  to August, the peak winter season is particularly cool and there is considerably more rain. Summer, is the peak tourist season where the average temperature is 21 degrees.

Where to stay in Robe

The camp grounds at Little Dip Conservation Park offer only basic facilities, ie, drop toilets, but they do provide quiet nights and beautiful mornings, and the smell of sea spray drifting over the dry dunes when the wind kicks up. The wildlife is plentiful out here too. With kangaroos, wallabies and wombats crossing the road as soon as the sun dips below the horizon.

There are some great accommodation choices in town as well.

Lakeside Tourist Park is on the northern bank of Lake Fellmongery, where you are almost guaranteed to see a speedboat kicking up wake followed closely by someone screaming on skis. Lakes is on the grounds of a historic estate that comes with an interesting story. The estate was built by a George Danby, the youngest son of local clergyman Sir Robert Affleck. Young George saw an opportunity when the Danby estate was seeking heirs and changed his name in order to inherit the estate. Apparently, he didn't waste any time spending the money either, building this simply stunning country home and spending every penny before he died. Now the main building provides beautiful accommodation for backpackers, while the stable is the office for the caravan park, which sprawls around the lake in the shade of huge trees.

Sea-Vu Caravan Park is the closest park to town, so it is perfect for those who want to walk into the main centre to sample the good food and wine on offer. Remember, this is one of the country's premier wine-producing regions, and Coffin Bay isn't too far away either, so the oysters are great until the weather gets too hot in the middle of summer.

Cape Jaffa Caravan Park overlooks Lacepede Bay to the north of Robe. It features shady grassed sites and is pet-friendly, as long as they are on a leash in the park. A beautiful quiet spot, Cape Jaffa benefits from the same northern aspect as the town of Robe and the beaches are beautiful here too.

For more accommodation options in Robe, click here.

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